Like someone that is jealous when they see their ex is out on a date, the Warriors could not even give the Lakers a full 24 hours to celebrate their massive signing of LeBron James. Golden State shocked the NBA by agreeing to terms with DeMarcus Cousins for next season. James signing with the Lakers not only shifts the balance of power even more in the favor of the West, it may also change your sleep schedule.
The NBA is taking its cue from the Pac-12 who have boasted their exciting brand of college football that kicks off when most fans on the east coast are getting ready for bed. The majority of west coast NBA games tip-off at 10:30 p.m., leaving fans with the dilemma of deciding just how badly you want a good night’s rest.
Golden State was able to sign Cousins, who was once considered to be a candidate for a max contract, on a prove-it deal partially because he is still recovering from an Achilles injury. There is a wide debate as to whether Cousins will be ready for training camp, but safe estimates have Cousins out until January. Cousins has tried to assure fans he plans to be ready for the season, but the Warriors have plenty of talent to survive Cousins’ absence for a few months.
The bigger question is whether the Lakers can contend next season. Most seasons, James had an easier path to the finals in the East. With his move out West, James’ streak of eight straight finals appearances is in serious danger. Since the James signing was announced, the Lakers have made a series of moves that the the front office hopes gives James enough help. Quality is always preferable over quantity, and the Lakers moves provide a similar feeling to finishing an all-you-can eat meal at Golden Corral.
Sure, the Lakers have plenty of time to continue adding players, but Los Angeles no longer has cap space to be in play to sign another marquee player. The good news is all the new players are on one-year deals, allowing the Lakers to be major players in 2019 free agency. Los Angeles could still trade for Kawhi Leonard, but the longer time goes on it makes you wonder how willing the Spurs are to trade Leonard to his preferred destination.
Boogie Nights in the Bay Area
As Bleacher Report’s Tom Haberstroh pointed out, the Warriors now have the 2016 Western All-Stars starting lineup with the addition of Cousins. Golden State already had the most talented team in the league. The Warriors just added an All-Star center, a position that was the only real weakness on the Warriors roster. It is worth noting there is a reason why Cousins was not flooded with offers at the start of free agency, and found himself calling Warriors GM Bob Meyers after hearing crickets through two days of the process.
Cousins is recovering from an Achilles injury that players do not have a strong track record of returning to the same player post-injury. A legacy of losing, fairly or unfairly, has also followed Cousins wherever he has gone. The Pelicans went on a hot streak after Cousins sustained his season-ending injury. Angry fans would be wise to wait to see how this plays out before we hand Golden State the trophy.
The Warriors roster closely resembles what you get when you turn on the trade override function on NBA 2K. While that may work in video games, team chemistry can be a fragile thing. If an All-Star player calls and is willing to take less money, what team is going to turn him down? It may be a risk, but it is a calculated risk.
Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green all played with Cousins on Team USA. Everything coming out of the Bay Area indicates all the players signed off on the deal. The Warriors may be risking too much of a good thing, but Cousins’ livelihood is on the line.
Cousins is betting on himself to come back from injury and play at a high level so he can sign the mega-deal he planned to have, just one summer later than expected. If Cousins fails on the Warriors, it is hard to imagine NBA teams, who were already skeptical, lining up in 2019 to throw wads of cash at the big man.
The NBA Has Rolled Out the Red Carpet for the Celtics or Sixers to Reach the 2019 NBA Finals
The majority of the fun may be going west, but Celtics fans still have plenty to cheer for next season. Gordon Hayward is expected to be back after missing all but a few minutes of the 2017-18 season. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown now have a year of big-time NBA minutes under their belt. Did we mention King James is now in the Western Conference?
Both the Celtics and Sixers have been oddly quiet in free agency. All signs point to another Celtics-Sixers clash in the playoffs, but this time it will likely be in the Eastern Conference Finals. James did not “Trust the Process”, but the Sixers return their dynamic duo despite Bryan Colangelo’s burner accounts doing its best attempt to self-sabotage.
The Lakers have won NBA free agency so far, but the NBA appears to be a four team race for next season. The Warriors are the favorites with the Rockets, Celtics and Sixers running as fast as they can after the champs. The next few weeks will be telling to see if the Lakers make additional moves to give the team a chance next season, or whether they are relying on James’ long-term commitment to find another star player in the 2019 free agency.
While there are plenty of fans that have sworn off the NBA based on these recent signings, it is important to remember that the Warriors have the draft to thank for the majority of their success. Durant and now Cousins joined an already successful roster that was built on strong talent evaluation. Just like they could have selected Curry, opposing GM’s had an opportunity to make more compelling pitches to lure Cousins away from Golden State, rather than it being a product of some NBA conspiracy.
There are plenty of reasons to watch the NBA next season, you just might have to hit the snooze button the next morning.
Source: Heavy Sports